No10’s scientists have called for the introduction of vaccine passports and work-from-home guidance to counter the spread of the super-mutant Omicron Covid variant, advice published today shows.
Documents released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and subgroup Nervtag warned the highly evolved strain could cause a surge in cases ‘similar or even larger’ than previous waves.
The expert panel admitted that the jury is still out on whether the variant will cause more or less severe illness, with conflicting reports coming out of the epicentre in South Africa, where doctors insist most cases are mild but hospital admissions seem to be rising.
In the minutes from SAGE’s 97th meeting on Covid on Monday, the group said the emergence of Omicron meant vaccine passports and reducing social contacts through working from home were ‘highly relevant’.
The meeting, chaired by England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Science Officer Sir Patrick Vallance, concluded that the strain’s infectiousness was undisputed but evidence of its effect on vaccines is still murky.
In a separate meeting of SAGE’s modelling subgroup Spi-M, scientists also warned that coronavirus would likely put pressure on the NHS for a further five years at least before becoming endemic — weakened to the point of a common cold thanks to jabs and natural immunity.
They said continued monitoring and ‘active’ measures would be required until 2026, although they did not stipulate what these may involve.